Nepal

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 19 February 2014.   It contains new information under Summary and Local travel (on 16 February 2014, a Nepal Airlines plane crashed in western Nepal, killing all 18 people on board). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Nepal due to the uncertain political and security situation.

Nepal overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Nepal due to the uncertain political and security situation.
  • Pay close attention to your security at all times and monitor the media and other local sources for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • Law and order in the Terai region is especially unpredictable as criminal and armed groups operate in this region. Tourists visiting the popular sites of Chitwan and Bardiya National Parks have occasionally been victims of crimes such as theft and robbery.
  • Illegal roadblocks and enforced national or local strikes (bandhs) often occur without notice and may continue for lengthy periods resulting in the closure of businesses and vehicles not being allowed on the roads. At these times, access to the airport can be disrupted and taxis are not usually available.
  • Nepal is in a highly active earthquake region and earthquakes and earth tremors are common. In the event of a major earthquake, there is likely to be loss of life, widespread damage to buildings, and severe disruptions to essential services.
  • On 16 February 2014, a Nepal Airlines plane crashed in western Nepal, killing all 18 people on board. In recent years, a number of small aircraft travelling domestically have crashed, with some accidents causing multiple fatalities, including of international travellers.
  • Travel on public buses, which are generally overcrowded and poorly maintained, is dangerous and there are frequent bus accidents with multiple fatalities.
  • There have been occasional reports of trekkers being robbed or assaulted. You should never trek alone.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Australian citizens are required to obtain a visa for Nepal. Australians can apply for tourist visas on arrival in Nepal. However, visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly, so you should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Nepal for the most up to date information.

You should ensure you have the correct, current visa at all times, otherwise you may be fined, jailed, deported and/or banned from re-entering Nepal. Foreigners do incur fines, detention and/or jail terms for breaching their visas or illegally overstaying their visa. The Australian Embassy cannot arrange visas or work or residence permits. The Embassy can provide a list of local lawyers if you have breached your visa conditions or overstayed your visa.

If your passport is lost or stolen in Nepal, you will need to obtain a transfer of visa to your new passport before departing the country. The visa transfer can be obtained by presenting a police report, two current passport size photographs and a letter from the Australian Embassy advising of your lost or stolen passport to the Department of Immigration.

Australian citizens travelling to India from Nepal should note that the Indian Government has announced changes to tourist visa regulations that may affect Australian travellers. Visit the Indian Government Ministry of Home Affairs website or contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of India for the most up-to-date information.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity and carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Civil unrest/Political tension

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Nepal due to the volatile political and security situation. Political protests and demonstrations occur regularly and can turn violent without warning.

A number of violent incidents, including bomb attacks, have occurred at crowded locations and on public transport throughout the country. For example, on 13 September 2013 an explosion at a Government office in Sarlahi district near the border with India injured 12 locals. A number of explosive devices have also recently been discovered by the authorities.

Australians in Nepal should avoid all protests, demonstrations and large crowds. If a demonstration or political rally occurs, you should avoid the area, minimise your movements and exercise a high degree of caution. Curfews may be enforced at short notice. You should pay close attention to your security at all times and monitor the media and other local sources for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Illegal roadblocks and enforced national or local strikes (bandhs) often occur without notice and continue for lengthy periods resulting in the closure of businesses and vehicles not being allowed on the roads. At these times, access to the airport can be disrupted and taxis are not usually available.

During bandhs, travel by vehicles (including taxis) can be dangerous as bandh organisers may forcibly stop vehicles from travelling. You should minimise your movements and exercise a high degree of caution. You should also ensure that you have adequate supplies of water, food, batteries, cash and medications. Travel services, including to trekking areas and outside of Kathmandu Valley, may be disrupted during bandhs.

Terai region

Law and order in the Terai region is especially unpredictable as criminal and armed groups operate in this region. Violent demonstrations and bandhs have also occurred in the Terai, resulting in deaths and injuries. The security situation can quickly deteriorate without warning.

Threats have been made against Christian organisations in Nepal, including schools. A bomb exploded in the Assumption Church in Kathmandu in May 2009.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Crime

Crimes against foreigners, including tourists, such as assault and theft occur in Nepal due to the poor law and order situation. There have been armed robberies and assaults (including sexual assaults) on tourists. Women, in particular, should not travel alone, especially at night.

Petty theft (including pickpocketing and bag snatching) is not uncommon, especially at tourist sites, airports, on buses and in hotel rooms. There have been reports of foreigners being injured in the course of these incidents, in particular when bags are pulled from pedestrians by assailants on motorbikes. There has been an increase in crime in Thamel, the main tourist district of Kathmandu.

There have been occasional reports of trekkers being robbed or assaulted. You should never trek alone. Tourists visiting the popular sites of Chitwan and Bardiya National Parks have occasionally been victims of crimes such as theft and robbery.

Attempts by criminals to defraud tourists or demands to carry illegal goods should be reported to local police immediately.

There has been an increase in the availability of illegal drugs and foreigners are often targeted by drug peddlers. See the Laws section of this advice for information on penalties for drug offences.

Victims of crime can call the Tourist Police in Kathmandu on 01 470 0750 or the Tourist Police headquarters on 01 424 7041.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry is and whether your ATM card will work in Nepal.

The Government of Nepal has banned the import, export and use of 500 and 1,000 Indian rupee notes in Nepal. You should ensure you are not carrying these notes on arrival in Nepal as they will be confiscated and you may be fined.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

Taxi drivers frequently refuse to use meters and charge foreigners rates well above the usual meter cost. Refusal to pay the increased price has led to threats against the customer. Fuel shortages can at times reduce the availability of local taxis and other forms of transport.

Road travel can be disrupted due to strikes called at short notice or demonstrations.

Landmines and improvised explosive devices remain a danger in many parts of Nepal, including some trekking areas. You should seek advice from local authorities before trekking, observe all warning signs and follow clearly identified tracks.

Road travel is dangerous at night, particularly in rural areas. Travel on public buses, which are generally overcrowded and poorly maintained, is dangerous and there are frequent bus accidents with multiple fatalities. One Australian was killed and four others injured in a bus crash in 2012. Roads are crowded and not well maintained, driving standards are poor and traffic laws are often not adhered to. For safety and security reasons, travel between cities after dark should be avoided. In the event of an accident, foreigners may be assumed to be at fault and expected to make financial restitution to all other parties. Car accidents resulting in injuries often lead to confrontations, including violence against drivers and road closures. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Telecommunications facilities are limited and can be unreliable. Mobile phone services may be suspended without notice.

Electricity supplies are unreliable and there is frequent load-shedding during the winter months and in the lead up to the monsoon. Shortages of essential supplies (including food, water, fuel, gas and kerosene) can occur with limited notice. Businesses, including hotels and guesthouses, can be affected.

Inclement weather conditions may result in flight delays and cancellations. Tourists have been stranded for up to 10 days in locations such as Lukla, the start of treks in the Everest region, resulting in inconvenience.

Special regulations apply to mountaineering expeditions and all expedition members are required to have permits. Australians wishing to climb in Nepal should seek information either through reputable trekking companies in Nepal or Australia or from the Nepalese Embassy in Canberra or Consulates-General in Australia (Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney).

Trekking can be dangerous. If you choose to trek in Nepal, you should only use reputable trekking companies with professional guides. You should not trek alone.

Before departing on a trek you should seek an update from the trekking company on the security situation and likely climatic conditions in the area you intend to visit. You should register on the Smartraveller website and advise family or friends where you intend to trek. Information about trail conditions and possible hazards in the northern regions can be obtained from the Himalayan Rescue Association (telephone 01 444 0-292 or 01 444 0-293).

The Government of Nepal has authorised the Trekking Agency Association of Nepal (TAAN) and the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) to implement a system for foreign trekkers called the Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS). Trekkers, including those not with organised groups, are required to have a valid TIMS card issued by TAAN, its member agencies, or NTB. In case of an emergency, the system will help authorities ascertain the whereabouts of trekkers. TIMS cards are available through authorised trekking companies, TAAN offices in Kathmandu or Pokhara and the NTB office in Kathmandu.

When planning a trek, you should ensure you have adequate travel insurance to cover emergency evacuations by helicopter or other means.

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities such as rafting, are not always met. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Carefully check the operator's credentials beforehand and ensure that your insurance policy covers you for all activities that you undertake.

Generally, only travellers in organised tour groups are issued visas and permits for the Tibetan region of China. Australians considering travel to Tibet should check the travel advice for China for up-to-date information. Contact your nearest Embassy of the People's Republic of China before travelling to the Tibetan region of China. If you are in Nepal, you should contact the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Kathmandu.

Airline safety

Nepal’s only international airport, Tribhuvan International Airport, has a single runway that services both domestic and international flights. Domestic flight cancellations and delays occur frequently, especially during the tourist season when the airport is crowded, and have led to travellers missing their international connections.

On 16 February 2014, a Nepal Airlines plane crashed in western Nepal, killing all 18 people on board. In recent years, a number of small aircraft travelling domestically have crashed, with some accidents causing multiple fatalities, including of international travellers. These crashes have been spread across the domestic network rather than being concentrated with one carrier.

Due to safety concerns, all airlines certified by Nepalese regulatory authorities have been banned from operating in European airspace. For more information on aviation safety and security, please see our air travel page.

Laws

When you are in Nepal, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for drug offences are severe in Nepal. Tourists caught in possession of even small quantities could be convicted and imprisoned.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Nepal, however some incidents of harassment of LGBTI people have been reported. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Bars and restaurants in Thamel, the main tourist district of Kathmandu, are currently required by law to close at 11pm in response to increased crime in Thamel and an effort by authorities to curb illegal activities. Travellers should take care of their belongings and observe closing times.

It is illegal to take photographs or video images of army barracks, check points and/or army personnel.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

Dress codes are relaxed in the tourist areas of Kathmandu, but more modest attire is recommended when travelling in other parts of the country. You should take care not to offend.

Information for dual nationals

Nepal does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit our ability to provide consular assistance to Australian/Nepalese dual nationals who are arrested or detained. We strongly recommend that you travel on your Australian passport at all times.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities in Nepal are very limited, particularly outside Kathmandu. In Kathmandu, treatment at international clinics is expensive and up-front cash payment for services is generally required. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation costs would be considerable. If you are trekking or mountaineering, you should ensure your travel insurance covers you for helicopter evacuation from mountainous regions.

Malaria is a risk in Nepal's Terai and Hill districts and Chitwan National Park. Other mosquito-borne diseases (including dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis) also occur. We recommend you consider taking prophylaxes against malaria where necessary and take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

The mosquito-borne disease Japanese encephalitis is found throughout many regions of North, South and South-East Asia and Papua New Guinea. A Japanese encephalitis vaccine is registered for use and is currently available in Australia. For further details, please consult your travel health doctor.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, leptospirosis and rabies) are common, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. HIV/AIDS is also prevalent. It is advisable to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Travellers who ascend to altitudes greater than 2500m, particularly if the ascent is rapid, or who at higher altitudes make further rapid ascents, are at risk of developing altitude sickness. Altitude sickness can be life threatening and can affect anyone, even the physically fit. Those more at risk include people who have had altitude sickness before, who exercise or drink alcohol before adjusting (acclimatising) to the altitude, or who have health problems that affect breathing. If you plan to travel to altitude, you should see your doctor prior to travel and get advice specific to you and your situation.

Highly contagious eye problems such as conjunctivitis are common after the monsoon season.

Where to get help

In Nepal, you can obtain consular assistance from:

Australian Embassy, Kathmandu

500 metres north of Narayan Gopal Chowk
Bansbari, Kathmandu
Telephone: (+977 1) 437 1678
Facsimile: (+977 1) 437 1533
Website: http://www.nepal.embassy.gov.au/

If you are travelling to Nepal, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend that you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate

Nepal is in a highly active earthquake region and earthquakes and earth tremors are common. In the event of a major earthquake, there is likely to be loss of life, widespread damage and severe disruptions to essential services. Australians travelling and residing in Nepal are encouraged to be prepared for an earthquake by ensuring they have emergency stocks, including water, on hand. See our earthquakes bulletin for advice on travelling to and living in an earthquake-prone region.

On 18 September 2011, an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale struck the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim, which borders Nepal. It caused damage and a number of deaths in Nepal and affected transportation routes, telecommunications, and power water, and food supplies.

Landslides and flooding can occur throughout the year, but are more frequent during the monsoon season (June to September). Avalanches can also occur. .

In the event of major natural disasters, there are likely to be severe transport difficulties, damage to essential infrastructure, food shortages and emerging health issues. Australian travellers should avoid unnecessary travel to the affected regions.

Further information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For Parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.

For Volunteers

Australians planning to volunteer in Nepal should visit our Volunteering overseas page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.